The NFB goes Hyperlocal
The Hyperlocal project is a collaboration between the National Film Board of Canada and CBC Canada Writes. The NFB’s challenge was to create a collection of interactive stories based on personal essays about local change by prominent Canadian writers. Learn more about Hyperlocal at cbc.ca/hyperlocal.
Jennifer Moss, NFB Interactive Producer for Hyperlocal
Interactive stories are designed to let the viewer participate in the story in some way, introducing an element of choice, or action, into the experience. Combining text, audio, and visual elements, they are enveloping, immersive, artistic answers to the often cold landscape of the Internet.
The NFB has a track record of producing award-winning interactive projects, such as Bear 71, The Test Tube with David Suzuki, BLA BLA, and many others that are transforming storytelling and gaining recognition on an international stage.
In creating interactive pieces like these, you want to create opportunities for people to interact and play with the work without taking away from their experience of the story. You look for an interactive approach that connects neatly with the themes of the story. To do this, you have to focus on the story and then cast a wide net for inspiration.
For Hyperlocal, we began with five strong stories and worked closely with co-creator Sean Embury of Fulscrn to develop interactive concepts for each of them. Here’s a preview:
Joseph Boyden’s “Building Something” describes building a wilderness camp to teach Aboriginal kids to help themselves by teaching them to hunt, fish, and build a fire as a way of reconnecting them with their own inner strength. We decided that an interactive campfire would help illustrate this idea. As always, YouTube was a big help in looking for ideas. Who knew there were so many ways to light a fire?
In her essay “My Hometown,” Miriam Toews talks about how the moral spine of the Mennonite town she grew up in has shifted, or faded; about how even the letters of her name, which she’d carved into the sidewalk as a child, are barely visible now. We ran with that idea and introduced animator Kevin Airgid to the joys of carving letters in wet cement.
In Will Ferguson’s “Garrison Woods,” a former military base becomes the site of block parties and barbeques. We brought on designers Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge (a.k.a. the Goggles) to create a layered interactive experience that lets you pull out bits of history as you consume the story. Local history is their specialty. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out their moving interactive story about a vanished Canadian town, Welcome to Pine Point.
Lisa Moore’s moody essay, “Traffic,” talks about the sense of unease that has accompanied growing traffic from the prostitution trade in her downtown St. John’s neighbourhood. Award-winning NFB filmmaker Justin Simms was brought in to help place you in the driver’s seat while you cruise St. John’s and listen to Lisa’s story. For this project we were inspired by the differing viewpoints in a great interactive website about Dayton, Ohio, called Reinvention Stories.
Finally, in Heather O’Neill’s story “The Red Light District”—set in Montreal—she talks about the “tiny little film of the past” that plays in her head but is continually deteriorating. We decided to experiment with this idea of degeneration by letting people physically “smear” the present across the past, and vice versa, overlaying Google Earth images with archival photos of the same exact locations, letting one image bleed into another. The inspiration here came from a great project that also juxtaposes past and present, Le Printemps d’Après, created by our colleagues in NFB French Program, and also from Dutch photographer Jo Teeuwisse’s work Ghosts of War.
The sixth interactive story we make could be yours! The winner of the Canada Writes Hyperlocal Challenge gets their story of local change turned into an interactive project by the NFB Digital Studio. We can’t wait to sink our teeth into the next challenge.
Be sure to check back for more behind-the-scenes glimpses into the making of these projects. And visit hyperlocal.nfb.ca for the full experience.